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Dave Brisbin

Among the Living

It has always struck me that the gospels tell us nothing about the resurrection of Jesus. The central event around which Christianity orbits is left entirely offstage. The gospels pick up the story after the resurrection has occurred and focus not on the event itself, but the effect it has on Jesus’ friends. The gospels are telling us, with their own gaze, where to look, what is important to see.

What we see is that none of Jesus’ closest friends recognize him when they first see him again. They watched him die. They buried him. Regardless of what he taught, they fully expected him to stay buried and stay dead. The gospels are showing us that the miracle of resurrection in our lives is not an external event, but a process of recognizing the miraculous. That we all see what we expect to see until something breaks the spell of rational limitation.

We see the resurrection as a huge supernatural event as well as a huge theological truth. But in the gospels, nothing huge, supernatural, or theological breaks that spell and brings the truth of resurrection home to Jesus’ friends. Just the opposite. The smallest, most intimate connections—the tone of voice calling Mary’s name, the breaking of bread at the Emmaus table—tiny details seen and heard a thousand times break through to prove identity in the only way we accept. In intimacy.

We only know someone when we’ve experienced them in intimate detail, and Jesus’ friends had to re-experience that intimacy with him to prove his identity to themselves. Same with us. As long as resurrection remains huge and transcendent, it remains distant, a thought in our heads. But the moment we begin to see the risen Lord in the most intimate details of everyday life, we realize, as Jesus’ friends slowly did, that we can’t seek the living among the dead. Life is motion; set belief is static.  We will never find our God among motionless thoughts in our heads. Only among the living. That’s us, the living, the moving ones.

When we’re ready, we will find our risen, living God in each face we encounter and embrace or not at all.


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